Under the motto "Shine your light" ("Let your light shine"), western Romanian Timisoara opened the Capital of Culture year on Friday evening. As a central message, the organizers want to emphasize the advantages of diversity in the multicultural city. "In our Europe, which is still finding its way in this complex century, Timisoara wants to encourage courage with its history. Diversity is a source of strength, culture creates prosperity," said Mayor Dominic Fritz at the opening at a gala in the Timisoara Opera.
The light metaphor from the motto of the event was perceived as ironic by observers because shortly after the end of the gala the power went out in the city center, so that the streets were plunged in darkness for about 40 minutes, state television TVR reported. The gala guests - including Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca, other politicians, diplomats and artists - had searched their way out of the opera with cell phone flashlights, according to TVR.
The people of Timisoara are proud that their place was the first European city with electric street lighting in 1884. The approximately 300,000 residents of the university and industrial city also see themselves as pioneers politically: the bloody popular uprising that led to the fall of the communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu started here in December 1989. However, this topic hardly plays a role in the Capital of Culture programme.
City with imperial and royal flair
Timisoara, located at the Romania-Hungary-Serbia border triangle, attracts visitors with its architecturally visible Imperial and Royal flair from the time when the region still belonged to Austria-Hungary. The 39-year-old head of town hall Fritz, a native German from the Black Forest, ex-office manager to former Federal President Horst Köhler, has been mayor here since 2020. He hopes that the Capital of Culture year will give new impetus to the economy and tourism.
Fritz doesn't want to hide the fact that despite all efforts not everything is perfect in Timisoara, on the contrary: "The Capital of Culture year celebrates the ambition of a city that doesn't stand still. It is precisely the awareness of one's own shortcomings that generates the creative energy that sets a city in motion". , he said in his speech on Friday. This should become visible soon, because shortly the central Timisoara train station is to be transformed into a construction site for a long-needed renovation.
The booming industrial and university city has a lot to offer culturally: In addition to the opera, the "Palace of Culture" also houses three theaters - one each for three languages native to Timisoara: Romanian, Hungarian and German. There is also a lively off-scene, which is now to be specifically promoted in the Capital of Culture year.
The highlight on Friday was the opening of the exhibition by the Romanian-born French surrealist Victor Brauner (1903-1966). Live concerts, acrobatics and light shows in the open air were planned to end late into the night.
47 events were announced for the opening day alone. A similarly dense program is planned for the weekend, including two performances by the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk at Timisoara West University. Other European Capitals of Culture this year are Veszprem in Hungary and Eleusis in Greece.
Opening program, English